From Oct. 9 to 12, King County Metro hosted transit leaders from across North America for TRANSform, the annual conference of the American Public Transportation Association (APTA). A record-breaking number of people — more than 3,100 — attended the four-day event. In addition to meetings and speeches, guests toured Metro’s battery-electric test charging station, our bus and light rail connections in the U District, the King County Water Taxi, bus stop murals in the Central District celebrating Black history and our innovative on-demand service in south King County. This video and transcript was King County Metro General Manager Terry White’s welcome address on the first full day: Mon., Oct. 10, which was also Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

Finally, we’re all here and we’re close together and it’s 3D and not 2D, and we can tell who’s tall short and all of those wonderful things. Wow. I couldn’t wait for today.

On behalf of King County Metro and our partners, we are thrilled to be the host for APTA’s flagship event.

We couldn’t wait for you to get here, and I love that today it’s happening in Seattle, named after Chief Seattle, on our now recognized holiday.

I think that’s just a big deal for us. And I want to acknowledge that this land is owned by the Duwamish and the Suquamish, the Puyallup, the Snoqualmie, the Tulalip and even more.

If we have to work on a recognized holiday, I can’t think of a better place to be than here with you all, breaking bread and figuring out how we continue to move people from a place to a place.

And if you know me, place has always meant more than just a physical address.

Place is socioeconomic.

Place is one state of mind.

Place can move you from anxiety to peace.

So a little of my story, since folks are telling stories. I grew up four miles south of this convention center, Rainier Vista Community Housing Project, a family of four, unashamedly Black, with a single parent mother who had a disability that would not allow her to ever drive a car.

Now you can look at that the physical and say, so Terry made it four miles…


Or you could look at that and say, our journey was from low and sometimes no income, to living wage.

From frontline, to professional, to managerial.

And again, from anxiety to peace.

And that’s what transit does.

There’s this movie that I love came out in 2000 called “Drumline.”

And there’s a part in the movie — If you don’t know the movie, it’s about a guy who’s trying to become a drummer in a band in college.

And there’s a part in the movie where the leaders are talking to each component of the band, whether it’s woodwinds, horns, drums and all, and they’re trying to express it upon them there needed required excellence, and that if they don’t do their jobs perfectly right, people are going to know. The band is not going to sound as harmonious as it could and the whole thing will fail. And as you go through this movie, you see they’re telling every part of the band the exact same thing.

If you came in on our system when you got here from our airport, you either caught the bus or you rode Sound Transit’s Link light rail, and you met our true leaders, our true CEOs and general managers, on the way.

Those are our operators, our vehicle maintenance folks, our security and police. Our planners and schedulers did the work up front for you to make it easy and someone cobbled it all together and put it on your smartphones.

Those are our true heroes.

Those are the folks that I idolize and respect.

I grew up loving operators for what they gave me, where they put me, and where they took me.

But I also remember the places I could not get to, bus-dependent, and some of it because of schedules, some of it because of time, and some of it because of prejudice.

We’re here together in this room to create some harmonious music.

And no matter who you are or where you are and where you came from, the ability for us to come together and sharpen our irons together, to move us to better provide mobility from a place to a place is the most important thing that can be happening right now.

We’re not here to learn. We are here to learn, I should say.

We’re not here to just salute. To just provide solutions.

I’m hoping that we all leave here better charged to go back to our respective teams and our respective communities to co-create what can be a better system.

Now, I’m extremely proud of King County Metro, and I got to at least say a couple of things about what I’m proud of that we have done here.

Prioritizing transit services, especially where needs are greatest. If you build it for the least, you’re building it for everyone.

Making fares affordable for all and free for our youth.

Leading the way on accessibility for our residents and mobility-challenged riders.

Pioneering on-demand services to link more people to transit and transitioning every one of our 1,500 plus buses to zero-emissions by 2035. And we’re going to start that work in the parts of our county that have the worst pollution and the highest numbers of BIPOC communities.

So I’m going to wrap up and say this.

I need you all to look around at each other, look behind you, because this is the room that is charged with taking us to the next place.

Where are you now when it comes to your place as an individual at the transit professional, as an agency, as an organization? And where do you want to be?

I look forward to breaking bread with all of you, learning from each other.

I was going to say, “Let’s ride.” But someone took that from me who no longer lives here, apparently. And it’s in Denver somewhere. So either way.

Thank you all for coming.

We’re excited to share this time with you and to grow our agencies.

Appreciate you. I’m going to turn it over to [Sound Transit CEO] Julie Timm.

Terry White is General Manager of King County Metro.

APTA TRANSform conference attendees tour Metro's battery-electric test charging facility in Tukwila, Washington
APTA TRANSform conference attendees tour Metro’s battery-electric test charging facility in Tukwila, Washington.


King County Deputy General Manager Michelle Allison moderates a panel at the APTA TRANSform annual conference.
King County Deputy General Manager Michelle Allison moderates a panel at the APTA TRANSform annual conference.


King County Metro colleagues, regional partners and other APTA TRANSform attendees gather for a reception at the Wonder of Women gallery.
King County Metro colleagues, regional partners and other APTA TRANSform attendees gather for a reception at the Wonder of Women gallery.